What’s in your home may kill you: Ministry urges research into dust, pollution
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What’s in your home may kill you: Ministry urges research into dust, pollution

In health and environment report card, government scores high on national planning, low on implementation of laws, sustainable public transportation

Painting and wood maintenance. A new report on health and the environment recommends research into in-house pollution. (gkrphoto via istockphoto/Getty Images)
Painting and wood maintenance. A new report on health and the environment recommends research into in-house pollution. (gkrphoto via istockphoto/Getty Images)

The government needs to focus more on ensuring that its regulations on health and environmental safety are implemented, a report issued Monday said, pointing to indoor pollution as a problematic area.

More research is needed into indoor air pollution from sources such as lead in paint, volatile compounds from cleaning materials and beauty products, home pesticides, fire retardants, and radon, according to “Environmental Health in Israel 2017,” a joint report by the Health Ministry and a local NGO, the Environment and Health Fund.

Israel, a world leader in reclaiming water, must determine if there is residue from drugs and cosmetics in sewage water that is recycled for agricultural irrigation and what effect such residue has on crops, and address the over-removal of minerals — particularly iodine and magnesium — in desalinated seawater for drinking.

The authors found improvements since the last report was issued three years ago, notably the rise in the government’s resolve to act on health and environmental issues and to do so in a holistic fashion across departments.

Israel's desalination plant on the Mediterranean Sea at Ashkelon (Photo credit: Edi Israel /Flash90)
Israel’s desalination plant in Ashkelon on the Mediterranean coast. (Edi Israel/Flash90)

The creation of a national plan for health and the environment, progress in the removal of tobacco smoke pollution from schools, and the phasing out of certain pesticides receive high marks.

However, the report recommends further study into the polluting effects of new products, such as electronic cigarettes, and into a range of chemicals used in the home, among them PFOAs (perfluorooctanoic acids) found in products such as nonstick pans and fabric protectors; PFOSs (perfluorooctanesulfonic acids) used in stain repellents, fire-retardant foams and cleaning products; and phenols, employed in cosmetics such as sunscreens and hair dyes but also in materials used to make plastic food and water containers and to coat food cans and water pipes.

Specifically, it calls for “pioneering research” into house dust and internal pollution in school buildings.

On pesticide use, the report noted improvements but said that many samples of crops such as apples and melons still have residues above what is permitted.

They're not cantaloupes, but they are melons (photo credit: Chen Leopold/Flash 90)
Harvesting melons. (Chen Leopold/Flash 90)

It warned against excessive consumption of fish from the area around Acre on Israel’s northern coast, where large amounts of mercury have been found.

And it points out that there is insufficient followup on smoking bans in public places and on pesticide sale and use.

The report upbraids the government for having made no progress toward sustainable public transport since 2014’s report.

On challenges for the future, the report called on the Economy Ministry to pay more attention to protecting the public from materials such as lead and to encouraging the Health Ministry to develop guidelines on worrisome chemicals.

It proposes comprehensive research and legislation on food pollutants, pollutants in the home and pesticides.

A representative sample of people should be tested for pollutants in the blood, urine and mothers’ milk every two to three years and a national program should be instituted to follow up all babies, at least for their first 20 years, in order to monitor pollution-related changes such as reduced sperm counts and rises in polycystic ovary syndrome in women, which have been linked to pollution, the report concluded.

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